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Natural Gas: An Opportunity for All Americans | Commentary

Changing energy dynamics are reshaping America’s energy future and creating a new era of possibility for U.S. consumers and businesses. This new energy future is reinvigorating American manufacturing, creating new jobs and driving economic growth, and it is saving Americans billions in heating and cooling bills — $1,200 per year on average according to IHS.

Just a decade ago, manufacturing jobs were something that existed overseas, not here at home. But that was before America’s oil and gas industry discovered new ways to affordably access the vast sums of natural gas right beneath our feet. Now America has an amazing competitive advantage — and this new energy bounty is fueling a manufacturing renaissance across the country.

This natural gas bounty is so large that American energy and feedstock costs are actually now competitive with those in the Middle East. Because of that, foreign and domestic investments in new infrastructure are skyrocketing as businesses look to take advantage of stable, affordable energy costs. At last count, more than $100 billion in private investment is planned in new manufacturing projects, and more is on the way.

Unfortunately, in the absence of a comprehensive national energy policy none of these outcomes are guaranteed as of yet. Lacking a defined energy strategy, many in Congress are too quick to respond to rapid geopolitical change with short-term insight, which, however well-intentioned, can lead to lasting long-term negative effects. Most recently, a number of politicians proposed the U.S. accelerate efforts to send liquefied natural gas abroad — to Europe in particular — as a gesture to countries that have suddenly realized they are over-dependent on energy from an unpredictable Russia.

There is a better way. Current law requires the Department of Energy to weigh the public interest when considering applications to export LNG to countries that have not, or will not, enter into free trade agreements with the United States. In the past year, the Energy Department has done just that, approving six applications to export a total of more than 9 billion cubic feet of gas per day. That is more than 10 percent of current U.S. consumption, and 50 percent more LNG than NATO imports today. Is it really too much to ask that the domestic impacts of such exports are at least considered in the process? And is an average of 60 days per application really too long for such an important review? Lawmakers who propose to throw aside the current process care more about the European consumer than the American consumer.

In fact, there is good reason to believe exporting too much too fast will do far more harm than good to this country. It will cause energy prices to rise. It will weaken or even halt the manufacturing resurgence. It will jeopardize billions in already committed investments and the jobs that come with them. And it will, without a doubt, cause every one of us to pay more to heat or cool our homes.

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